49ers playoff picture: Niners get no help as Vikings, Eagles both win
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers were hoping for a bit of help from friends in Week 15, but the two teams above them in the NFL playoff picture both won over the weekend.
The most important thing for the San Francisco 49ers was to handle their own business against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football, which they did, pulling off a 21-13 victory to open up the Week 15 slate of games.
Not only did that improve the Niners’ record to 10-4, but it also clinched the NFC West and guaranteed head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad a playoff berth within one of the top four seeds within the conference.
Considering the winner of the weak NFC South is likely to finish with a record right around the .500 mark, San Francisco is all but guaranteed to be no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs.
But the first two seeds were still in play for Shanahan and Co.
The top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles and No. 2-seeded Minnesota Vikings would hopefully lose their Week 15 matchups against the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, to assist the 49ers in their quest to get higher in the standings.
Yet the Niners couldn’t quite get a little help from their Bears and Colts friends over the weekend.
NFL playoffs: 49ers stay put at No. 3 after Eagles, Colts both win in Week 15
Granted, hoping for the one-loss Eagles to somehow fall in a massive upset to the three-win Bears was a long shot, but nevertheless, that would have helped keep San Francisco’s dream alive of a No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
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Was there a chance, though?
No, not really. Philly survived a close road game at Soldier Field but ended up knocking off Chicago 25-20 to improve to 13-1 while maintaining its hold on the top seed in the NFC with only three more weeks of regular-season action to go.
Conference record would be the tiebreaker if Philadelphia subsequently lost its remaining three games while the 49ers won all of theirs, but the chance of both teams finishing 13-4 seems slim.
Instead, the No. 2 seed is much more realistic for the Niners, who trail the Vikings by only a game and would have the tiebreaker by virtue of conference record.
However, and this is where things get crazy, Minnesota somehow overcame a 33-0 deficit at the hand of Indy during Saturday’s games to pull off an incredible 39-36 win in overtime.
Not only did that clinch the Vikings the NFC North while improving their record to 11-3, but it was also the largest deficit to be overcome in NFL history, and San Francisco can only wish the Colts were able to hold the line and dish out a loss to the Vikings instead.
Not to be, though, and the 49ers remain in the No. 3 spot heading into Week 16 in which they’ll face the Washington Commanders at Levi’s Stadium.